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Arriving after a comfortable flight with Cyprus Airlines we were met and driven to our hotel about an hour away. The comfortable hotel with 2 great swimming pools was a welcome sight at the end of our journey. After being met by our Group Leader, Roz, with a drink and a short introduction to Cyprus and the week ahead, we had time to unpack and freshen up before getting to know the rest of our group over a relaxed dinner.
Starting out at the civilized time of 9, after a wonderful buffet breakfast, we set off into the hills behind Kyrenia to begin our first walk of the week. A fantastic introduction to the island, walking over undulating wide tracks in the shadow of the mountains. Roz pointed out numerous varieties of wild flowers and butterflies along the way. We were discreetly supported by Mustapha, following in his 4WD with our bags and a good supply of water. Our first lunch of the week, cooked at home by Mustapha’s wife, gave the group a real taste of authentic Cypriot food. On the way back to our hotel, Roz introduced us to Kyrenia where we returned that evening for fish mezze overlooking the picturesque harbour.
Starting our walk this morning by climbing the steps up to St Hilarion Castle, we were immersed in the Byzantine and Lusingian history of the island. From the top we enjoyed the most amazing views over the coast before taking the steps down to a welcome glass of homemade lemonade. Carrying on through a narrow dry riverbed we clambered over boulders to be rewarded at the end
with lunch in square of the picturesque village of Koumi. Carrying on for another couple of hours along a stony mountain track with the mountains on one side and the sea below, we were then taken back to the hotel for a welcome dip in the pool.
Today’s walk took us into the mountains behind Kyrenia to the cool shaded pine forest. After visiting the herbarium we followed the undulating path down towards the coast looking out over the fertile plains of the Mesaoria and the Troodos Mountains to the south and up the coast to the Karpaz peninsula to the north. The views were breathtaking as we took lunch in a shaded clearing then continued down to the now deserted Greek Orthodox church of St Antiphonitis. We finished our day with a cool drink and dip in the sea.
A well earned day off from walking today, most of our group opted to take a relaxing boat trip along the coast and several opted to take a trip to the historic town of Famagusta. We took the local bus (30 minutes) into the capital Nicosia and walked along the main street of the old town passing from the quieter north side to the contrast of the modern capital in the south. A relaxing day to do as we pleased.
For me this was the most spectacular walk of the trip. Climbing the 700 steps to the top of Buffavento Castle we looked down on a clear panorama of the island, to the south coast, the Troodos Mountains, the Karpaz Peninsula and the coast of Turkey visible to the north. After another excellent lunch we continued to the village of Bellapais, passing Lawrence Durrell’s house on the way to the square overlooking the Abbey. Tired and thirsty, we sipped a welcome beer under the Tree of Idleness. The sight of a wedding taking place in the grounds of the Abbey was an added treat. Dinner tonight was in another of Kyrenia’s many excellent restaurants.
Passing behind Pentadaktylos (5 fingered mountain) our last day’s walking took us through wooded hillsides, along narrow paths through the trees. With regular stops along the way the terrain varied between wide stony tracks and steep inclines involving some scrambling. Coming across the remains of the Armenian Monastery, nestled in a heavily forested valley, we explored the remnants of what was once a thriving religious community. A further hour’s walk led us to our last lunch stop where our group opted for an afternoon on the beach as a leisurely finale to our day. Our trip ended in spectacular fashion with a group meal in the grounds of the impossibly picturesque Bellapais Abbey.
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